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Alienware Area-51 m9750 - Alienware Area-51 m9750
On the left hand edge you'll find an Express card slot - not PC Card, and a memory card reader. You'll also find one mini Firewire port, a USB port and a Gigabit Ethernet socket and right in the corner a security hook, should you need to keep it locked down. On the opposite side you'll find one more USB port, and all the audio sockets, headphone and microphone and line outs for front, centre, surround coming from the integrated Intel High Definition Audio chip to give you 7.1 when hooked up to a compatible speaker set. If you prefer to output digitally to an amplifier, there's an optical port. There's also an analogue volume wheel, though I found it was a little insensitive requiring far too much scroll to reach the desired level.
At the rear you'll find DVI and VGA connectors and a hybrid TV tuner, giving you either analogue or digital, but not both. There's an S-Video input to accompany this and audio in for connecting up a set-top box. There's a final USB port, taking the count up to three and even a modem connector. The power input is right in the centre, which is unusual and kind of cool.
One aspect that should be noted is that Alienware has made no pretensions at making this a Santa Rosa machine - there's no Santa Rosa CPU, no Turbo Memory, no Draft-N wireless. But as we've found that at least one of these is missing from most supposedly Santa Rosa machines we've looked at, I'm not all that disappointed.
Having a 1,920 x 1,200 resolution display on a gaming notebook often doesn't make all that much sense, but there is some logic to it, when you're pairing it with SLI graphics. The dual GeForce 7950s have required some real work done on the design to deal with the increased heat output and if you put your hand behind the rear exhaust when it's in full flow and your can really feel it. What's impressive though is that even when playing games the machine is surprisingly quiet and it doesn't get outrageously hot.
To be honest at first it seemed difficult to be amazed at the dual 7950s, as when it comes to desktop graphics the GeForce 7-series is yesterday's news. As ever, what was the fastest a few months ago seems tired all too soon. But the reality is that dual 7950s is still the fastest things available in mobile graphics on the planet, so it does deserve our respect. More than just raw speed though, the GeForce 7 series lags behind the 8-series in terms of features and quality - being Direct X 9, not 10 and offering less hardware acceleration for H.264 video processing. Real areas where this might an issue are if you want to run with HDR and anti-aliasing at the same time, or play games such as Lost Planet with the best effects possible. In testing I also found that the machine dropped frames when playing 1080p Quicktime trailers encoded in H.264, which was a bit of a shame.